Open Access

How to Bring About Change – A Literature Review About Education and Learning Activities for Sustainable Development


Sustainable development and transformational change have become more critical than ever in the era of climate change. The aim of this literature review was to increase knowledge on education and learning activities (ELAs), along with the learning outcomes they address, in the context of higher education for sustainable development (SD) with UNESCO’s eight core competencies for SD as a starting point. The search was conducted in two educational databases, Education Research Complete and the Education Resource Information Center. 153 articles were identified, of which 16 remained after reviewing for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Education and learning activities in ESD were grounded in discussions, reflections and interdisciplinarity by using participatory teaching methods, such as problem-based or experiential learning. Commonly enhanced learning outcomes were knowledge, attitude and collaboration competencies, as well as critical and system thinking. Self-awareness and behavior change, however, were less frequently achieved and the studies addressing behavior frequently recognized inertia to behavior change, despite transferred attitudes and increased knowledge. Although UNESCO outlined behavioral learning objectives as particularly important for ESD, the present review revealed that these had hardly been reached by the used ELA. The paper discusses the complexity of behavior change and proposes an ethics-led and whole-institution approach to tackle some challenges for behavioral action and social activity. There is a need for new educational and learning activities, which have greater transformational potential, by acknowledging the complexity of behavior change.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Education, other